Paula Radcliffe will bid to win her fourth Flora London Marathon on 26th April against one of the strongest fields she's ever faced.
The world marathon record holder will line up against the defending champion Irina Mikitenko, all three Olympic medallists and five of the first six finishers in Beijing, plus two former London winners and two World Marathon Majors champions.
After winning in 2002, 2003 and 2005 Radcliffe aims to emulate her mentor Ingrid Kristiansen, the Norwegian who won the London Marathon four times between 1984 and 1988.
�"It's fantastic to be back at the Flora London Marathon," said Radcliffe. �"I've missed the last three years through injuries and it was frustrating not to be fully fit for the Olympic Games this summer.
�"But after my victory in New York I'm hungry to win back my Flora London Marathon title and join Ingrid in the record books."
Radcliffe has set world records in all three of her previous appearances on the London course. But such is the depth and quality of the 2009 field, she is likely to be racing the opposition as much as the clock next April.
After her impressive victory in 2008, Mikitenko will not want to give up her title easily. The German went on to win the Berlin Marathon in September and was crowned the 2007/08 World Marathon Majors champion.
Olympic gold medallist Constantina Dita returns to London for the eighth time seeking her first win in the British capital. The 38-year-old Romanian surprised many with her bold victory in Beijing but she'll face a test every bit as tough in London.
Alongside her on the start line will be the world champion and Olympic silver medallist, Catherine Ndereba of Kenya; China's Zhou Chunxiu, the Olympic bronze medallist and 2007 Flora London champion; and Ethiopia's Gete Wami, second in London two years ago and the inaugural World Marathon Majors champion.
Wami is joined by her compatriot Berhane Adere, a double winner of the Chicago Marathon, while the Russian veterans Lyudmila Petrova and Svetlana Zakharova also return to London seeking their first wins. Both have finished second in the past Petrova in 2006 and Zakharova in 2008. Petrova also finished 2nd behind Radcliffe in the New York Marathon this November.
Radcliffe will be supported by two fellow-Britons the ever-improving Mara Yamauchi, who was sixth in the Olympic Games, and Jo Pavey, the Commonwealth 5000m silver medallist, who makes a much-anticipated marathon debut.
Flora London Marathon race director David Bedford said: �"We are delighted to welcome Paula back to the Flora London Marathon after an absence of four years. Her superb victory in New York showed that she is back to full fitness.
�"Naturally, she is keen to regain her London title but this will be her toughest marathon yet. With nine women who have run quicker than 2:22, this is without doubt the best field we've ever assembled for the women's race.
�"The array of former champions, record holders, world and Olympic champions means London will be treated to a spectacular demonstration of marathon running on 26th April."
The 2009 women's elite field and bets times
Irina Mikitenko GER 2:19:19 Paula Radcliffe GBR 2:15:25 Catherine Ndereba KEN 2:18:47 Zhou Chunxiu CHN 2:19:51 Berhane Adere ETH 2:20:42 Lyudmila Petrova RUS 2:21:29 Constantina Dita ROU 2:21:30 Svetlana Zakharova RUS 2:21:31 Gete Wami ETH 2:21:34 Mara Yamauchi GBR 2:25:03 Martha Komu KEN 2:25:33 Inga Abitova RUS 2:33:55 Kate O'Neill USA 2:34:04 Liliya Shobukova RUS Debut Jo Pavey GBR Debut
For further information, contact the Flora London Marathon Press Office:
Nicola Okey: 0207 902 0182; 07799 661345; firstname.lastname@example.org
Natasha Grainger: 0207 902 0199; email@example.com
More information on the World Marathon Majors at www.worldmarathonmajors.com